“This morning I’ve been rewriting one of the scenes,” says Dirk Maggs with an air of sober respect. The director of the new stage version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show – Live is not taking any chances. “Douglas needs to be front and centre,” he says. “I channel him really.”
H2G2 – as it’s affectionately known by its legion of fans – is a cult sci-fi comedy with a wicked anti-establishment streak and a playful attitude to science. Not quite as jolly was the untimely death of its creator Douglas Adams, just over a decade ago. He was just 49 – this year would have marked his 60th birthday.
Adams, who is buried in Highgate Cemetery, was universally loved for his wit and bonhomie. He wrote for Monty Python first, so it’s fitting that Terry Jones will guest star when this show reaches the Hackney Empire on July 19.
And it is for H2G2 that Adams will be most fondly remembered. Having begun life as a Radio 4 series in 1978, it went on to spawn books, audio recordings and a 2004 film starring Martin Freeman, Mos Def and Zooey Deschanel.
But Maggs’ new touring stage adaptation aims to capture the spirit of those early radio shows. Some of the original cast members (like Simon Jones) reprise their roles, while a different guest narrator joins each night (Phil Jupitus is among those who have taken a turn).
Would Adams have approved? “His family is backing us to the hilt on this – we ask for their opinion and they give it,” says Maggs. “We have creative arguments – but only within the cast.”
But one wonders what Douglas Adams would think of it all now. He’d have hated to think of himself ‘looking down’ because he was a firm atheist, a man of science and friend of Richard Dawkins. “But,” laughs Maggs down the phone from Liverpool, “he may be an aetheist, but there’s a heck of a lot of God in this!”
Maggs knew Adams well and even plays drums in this show. He’s clearly a believer in Adams – even if Adams wasn’t a believer in much. “He was ahead of his time. We are in the world that he was predicting 30 years ago.”
Maggs also reckons it’s time for a new generation of fans to discover H2G2. “I think it’s great to have kids here. For some reason, 12 seems to be the age when it really appeals. There was a lad in Glasgow who said he was scared and found it funny at the same time. So his answer? To be scared and to laugh.”
Which is probably what Adams would have wanted. Maggs adds: “It all ends with Now Read On. That’s what people should do with Douglas.”
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy The Radio Show – Live!
Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, E8 1EJ
Nearest Overground: Hackney Central